WASHINGTON -- The other day, I sat down to breakfast. It was a normal day. Five daily newspapers were laid out before me. As I went over the front pages, I downed orange juice and a bowl of oatmeal powdered with brown sugar and flaxseed. Then I went off to my library with the newspapers and a cup of coffee. By then, incidentally, I was revolted.
The New York Times carried on its front page a perfectly disgusting story. It was not a news story, for it broke no news. It was, rather, a feature story, meant to inform and, I presume, to move me to action. It was about the prevalence of suicide in Afghanistan by women who use cooking oil and matches to do themselves in, sometimes successfully, sometimes incompetently and all the more painfully. This was brought to my attention even before my matutinal coffee!
It is not the first time the Times -- or, for that matter, The Washington Post -- has put on its front page appalling stories that did not have to be there. Both newspapers run such feature stories on the front page rather regularly -- but not The Washington Times, not The Washington Examiner and certainly not The Wall Street Journal, my other three newspapers. They run repellent stories but usually inside. I think it tells you something about the biases of these newspapers.
The New York Times and The Washington Post share a liberal bias, and their preoccupations are increasingly morbid. The Washington Times, The Examiner and The Wall Street Journal are biased toward the conservative position. They do not shy from reality but generally keep it inside the newspaper, at least when they can. Whether they have my oatmeal in mind, they, for a certitude, have the dignity of the individuals covered in the story in mind, I hope. If the story had been breaking news, I would have expected all five newspapers to put it on the front page, but even then I would expect the conservative newspapers to desist from running pictures of corpses and mangled bodies. Certainly, the corpses would not be front and center -- as they often are in the liberal newspapers -- and faces would be covered.